1988 and what a summer of football, travelling and fun !!
It started in the unlikely setting of Buckingham Road, Home of Aylesbury United 'The Ducks', Aylesbury ducks are a very famous Christmas delicacy. I was with 6,000 fans who packed the ground and even some fans climbed trees as the Southern League side hosted England prior to the European Championships in West Germany.
I was in the tiny press section and took a photo of a streaker that ran across the pitch towards me as two 'bobbies' took him away with a helmet hiding his 'naughty bits'. England won 7-0 before flying off to obscurity at the 8 team European Championships tournament. The Three Lions lost 0-1 to Ireland in Stuttgart then 1-3 to Holland in Dusseldorf (a Van Basten hat-trick) and 1-3 to Soviet Union in Frankfurt to come bottom of the group with zero points.
At the Savoy Hotel in London I was a guest of Luton Town at the Player of the Year banquet and later went to Wembley for the sensational F.A. Cup Final result where little Wimbledon, 'The Crazy Gang' , shocked mighty Liverpool 1-0. Of course the club went out of business a few years later and were replaced by Milton Keynes Dons. The fans were really mad and formed a new club, fan owned AFC Wimbledon in the lowest league pyramid. This month, they won promotion to the Football League Division One, after 14 years of toil, where they will face MK Dons at home and away next season. MAGICAL !! Laurie Sanchez scored the only goal and captain Dave Bassett made the first ever penalty save in a Wemblet final from John Aldridge in front of 98,000 fans,
I went to Neckarstadion, Stuttgart to watch PSV Eindhoven defeat Benfica Lisbon 6-5 on pk's after a very boring 0-0 draw after extra time. With my friend Tom we went to Milan and intended to take the train to nearby Coma and an end of season match v AC Milan. However, we were directed to the wrong train and finished up in Stresa on Lake Maggiore where the station master gave us a hard time.and wanted to make us pay again for the mistake. Too late to backtrack so we went up to Bern and then Zurich in Switzerland.
A train to Rome and I visited the Italian F A offices asking about information on ITALIA '90 in two years time, They put me in a car to the Italia '90 HQ where I got a warm welcome and after telling them about my World Cup history they gave me an invitation to a pre World Cup week of presentations a month later in Capri, the island off the coast near Naples..all expenses paid.....more later.
A month later I was in the Olympiastadion Munich to watch Holland defeat Soviet Union 2-0 with the second goal from Marco Van Basten,,, one for the ages.... a full volley from an acute angle on the right , just outside the penalty box. At the press party the day before I got to meet one of my all time idols, goalkeeper Lev Yashin,Moscow Dynamo and USSR, who was quite ill and had one leg amputated. Very sad. The morning after the final I flew first class on ALITALIA to Rome and a limo to the Roma Termini train station which was almost empty.... a national rail strike. The only train there was a special three carriage new one to take us two hours to Naples. One was a lounge car, aother a movie presentaion car and the third was a restaurant car.
I was seated at lunch next to a guy who introduced himself as the head of Italian Railways. He asked me of my impressions of Italy and its railways. II told him of my love of railways and my first ever overseas trip, by rail through France and Switzerland to the 1960 Rome Olympics. I also told him about my negative experience with the bad tempered station master in Stresa. Not sure if he got fired.!! I couldn't have found a more important listener..
On arrival a limo ride from Napoli Centrale to dockside where our own private motor yacht whisked us to Capri, and then a bus up the mountain to Anacapri and a luxury hotel for the week. Each day we were taken in our yacht to such places as Sorrento, Ischia and the Amalfi Coast. Returning after lunch we found piles of Italia '90 souvenirs on our beds; watches, sandels, dressing gowns, T shirts, bags. hats, sun glasses, mini radios, telephones, and much more from sponsors. Then a lecture from various heads of departments and in the evening lavish meals at the hotel or in the best restaurants on the vacation island. Luca Cordero di Montezemolo the World Cup Director was our host. He later went on to run Ferrari and is important in Formula One Racing.and came from an aristocratic Piedmonte family..
At the end of the week a limo from Naples harbour to Rome's Fiumicino Airport and a complimentary first class ALITALIA flight to anywhere in the world of our choosing. !!
NO, IT WAS NOT A DREAM !!